From the perspective of humanist politics, you can say what you like about Osama bin Laden, about terrorism, about Islamism and the West. You can probably reach quite a nuanced and sensible position that takes all things into account, condemning terrorism in any form but also recognizing prevalent forms of hypocrisy in the actions and focus of the Western powers. Or maybe your concern today is solely with the evil that bin Laden wrought, and you will sleep slightly easier tonight knowing justice has been done. Or perhaps you’re one of the more bloody minded or crazier types.
But from the perspective of Tailorite Sufism, bin Laden’s danger is lethal to the Religion of Reading. For his power is that of Qur’anic illusion, his power a false Qur’an, a Qur’an of blindness, a Qur’an erased, not recited. I’m not talking about the media’s conception of a Salafi (or otherwise) basis, nor of a terrorist’s school of theology: I’m talking about him, the man, the individual agency of bin Laden.
Because he continues to exist, he was not killed, not really. He persists within the micro-fabric of your reading, a constant threat to your prayer, to your recitation, a barrier between you and the command to iqra: there he stands, just out of the the corner of your eye, a silent waxwork Muhammedean simulacrum, a kitch imitation, that bearded face, those faraway eyes that have seen something beyond us (if not God, then what?) and that saintly, sheikh’s smile, and a biography of elite tribes, exile and jihad in such close parallel to the sira of … well, you know who.
But that’s the nature of his illusion, his temporary Qur’an: the infernal plastic surgeon, he constructed his face to appear like Muhammed, he has abused the symbolic field, arranging it according to Stalinist realism, so that an unholy depiction of Prophecy arises, embodied. And this mimesis becomes the ultimate denial, the ultimate erasure of the Qur’anic sentence.
Ah, these innocent, infantalized Muslims, so far from their Roman Catholic maturity: they are virgins to the “Divine” pleasures of garishly painted wooden statues. And bin Laden is nothing but Roman Catholic’s nightmare played out in Bunuel or Fellini, a waxwork Messenger moving within your dreaming head, nothing but a simulacrum: a robot whose mask is imitation of a Messenger’s face, but falls away, revealing nothing behind it …
We do not make a point about theology or political-spiritual groups: we tell you this about him, his individual archetype. He continues to destroy and erase everything that could have been, everything that once was in Islam, replacing it with what “is” Islam. A nuclear fallout of microscopic bin Ladens, filling the air of mosques throughout the world, polluting, blocking, shutting down the channels of Divine Intellect.
His face, that simulacrum: it is a crystallization, an embodied (or countenanced) ontology that is the opposite of recitation, the opposite of reading, reading’s inversion. His face is one of erasure, deletion.
Pharoahs come and go. As the Qur’an informs us, colonization and power dynamics are the (almost) inescapable nature of our fallen existence, and the ironic secret to its (impossible) transcendence.
But bin Laden’s archetype continues as long as we continue, until the End of Days, the greatest threat to our Nation’s security, to the Truth of Islam, to the Sanctity of Qur’an. There is no greater threat to Islam than that man.